I declare South London open


It was truly an honour last night to have been asked to host the grand opening of a new cinema, the HMV Curzon in Wimbledon, guest of honour: Shane Meadows. The cinema itself actually sits above the existing HMV on the high street and may well point the way forward in these uncertain times: a large record chain expands its old-fashioned business to include music venues and now, cinemas. Wimbledon has a massive Odeon – indeed, the new Curzon is virtually next door, in an almost sneery gesture – but this is increasingly a place where the movie-lover takes his or her life into their own hands, not really knowing whether the viewing of a film will be actually possible, what with all the young people talking and texting all the way through it.

The Curzon is essentially an arthouse cinema, which means it may charge a few extra quid (tickets at Wimbledon will be capped at £10), but that, combined with its more esoteric programming choices, means that it’s less attractive to the talking and texting teenagers. Anyone living South West of the river should be as cheered by its arrival as I am. I frequently trek into London’s busy West End to visit either the Curzon Soho or Curzon Mayfair for a respectful, eyes-front, mobiles-off evening of cinemagoing – recent happy occasions include Moon and Antichrist (well, maybe happy isn’t the correct word for Antichrist). Let’s hope the Curzon Wimbledon will develop into a profitable venture. It has three modest-sized screens; the biggest, the Red Screen, seats just 103 patrons, but in comfort and with all digital mod cons. (I’m told the entire cinema can be operated from a laptop in space, or something.)


Anyway, to the glamorous gala night: our guest of honour was Shane Meadows, whose ace new film – shot in five days for £28,000 – Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, was the inaugural screening, and he was a terrific sport, wielding the giant golden scissors and being photographed in a sea of HMV logos and with Nipper the HMV dog (seen above with Karolina Kus, the Curzon Wimbledon’s manager). Having posed with the giant scissors, he was then given a normal-sized pair to actually cut the ribbon! I have known Shane, on and off, in a professional capacity, for many years, and he remains unnecessarily gracious about the fact that his first ever award was presented to him for his no-budget debut feature Small Time by Collins & Maconie’s Movie Club on ITV in 1996. (We sprayed a Fisher-Price farmyard gold and called it the Barn D’Or.) He was happy to do an informal, sit-down chat before the screening – after Simon Fox, Chief Exec of HMV Group, had presented him with a complete Seinfeld box set, which he had cheekily mentioned he was after in a short promotional film for the cinema’s opening. Shane really is one of the good guys, unspoiled by success, just as cheery and sociable and amenable as he was when I first met him, and just as fired up by getting out there and making films. Le Donk is hilarious and moving, and you should see it. At one candid point in our Q&A, Shane admitted that he considers Once Upon A Time In The Midlands “a piece of shit” but that its commercial failure, despite big names and a massive marketing push, actually helped relaunch him as a guerrilla filmmaker. (It isn’t a piece of shit, but it lacks the personal beating heart of his other work, and if it led to the rich seam of work beginning with Dead Man’s Shoes – which Paddy Considine did as a favour for his old pal – then it was worth doing.)

So, a successful launch. The cinema itself opens tomorrow (Friday). It’s rare that a new boutique cinema opens, and it was thrilling to be there, and to have lured so many people south of the river to see it. (Nipper the dog is a bitch. No, really.)

Thanks to Hugh Thompson for the official photos. And thanks to Debbie, Nadia, Karolina and all at HMV and Curzon for giving me the chance to host the evening. Also to Gennaro, a whirlwind presence at HMV since I used to work at Q, who reminded me to mention this charitable venture:


The HMV My Inspirations 18-month calendar is based on the ads with nice black and white photos of famous musicians you’ve probably seen. Proceeds go to children-and-young-adults cancer care charity CLIC Sargent.

15 thoughts on “I declare South London open

  1. Yeah, let's price the scum out of the good stuff. While we're at it why not slash the cost of seeing Wayans brothers movies and keep them in their place?Next stop: Up the cost of veg and give the fuckers rickets.

  2. I should have mentioned Curzon tickets start at £3, so it's not a case of pricing "the scum" out of the cinema. You used that phrase, not me. I usually go to the Odeon, so I am "the scum". I often use the Orange Wednesdays offer to get two for one, so I really am "the scum." I have noticed, however, that people are less likely to go to the cinema to talk to their friends if it costs more to get in. As someone old-fashioned who prefers to watch the film, I find this is a terrible shame and I wish it weren't so. If you know my work and my tastes and read this blog regularly, you will also know that I make no distinction between high art and low art when it comes to cinema. If it's a good blockbuster, it's a good film. If it's a useless arthouse film, it's a useless film. I resent being accused of snobbery merely because I prefer not to have teenagers talking through a film I have paid to see. You should be careful what you accuse someone of. I never said that arthouse cinemas only showed "the good stuff." I'm pretty sure the Odeon didn't show Antichrist, but if I existed solely on a diet of difficult world cinema, then I would be less of a critic, and less of a human being. The Curzon is opening with Up and The Fantastic Mr Fox, so hardly existing on a diet of roughage.I think fruit and veg should be cheaper, if you're interested. Although I suspect you have already made up your mind.

  3. Living nearby, I was quite excited by this venture. It's always a bit depressing to read really good film reviews, only to realise that a trek into the West End and an extortionate fee is required to actually see the film being talked about.Sadly, it appears that's still going to be the case. Wandering past last night on the way to the Odeon it seems that the first 3 arthouse films on show according to the boards outside are 'The Imaginarium of Dr ParnAssus', 'Fantastic Mr Fox' and 'Up'.What a shame.

  4. It's half-term, Lord Milky, and they're keen to get people through the doors in the opening weeks. Future fare is much less mainstream – White Ribbon, Fish Tank, Katalin Varga, Thirst etc.

  5. Out here in the sticks (Bracknell) I've had way more trouble with crowds down the local art house than the multiplexes … local teenagers usually shut up once the film starts, but the foreign film crowd feel it entirely appropriate to explain plots to one another, ask questions, and make you let them out to the bar half way through.Not having a go, though, just saying that being an *rse in the cinema may be price inelastic after all (hopefully using my The Wire education correctly).

  6. Shocking news, Splitter. At least in smaller cinemas, you can find a member of staff more easily to report "problems". In a multiplex, it takes ages to go all the way back down all those corridors to find a human being – you miss half the film.

  7. Thankfully we're quite blessed in Edinburgh with a decent amount of both great and not so great cinemas, although how long the great ones will be around for i'm not sure. Another thing we're blessed with is a pretty decent film festival where this summer we got to see Le Donk (as it was then called) with Considine and Scor-Zay-Zee both in the audience and in character the whole time. Scorz treated us to some phenomenal rapping, while Le Donk took all the credit as usual.Thought the film was well done and very funny, although perhaps a little bit slight and I wonder if it wouldn't have worked better as a television movie. Did I just say that? I think I did.The whole thing is worth it for Olivia Colman's enormous baby, though.

  8. Definitely agree that, overall, the smaller cinema experience is best. In fact it still makes me mad that we were sold the multiplex revolution on the basis that more screens would equal more choice … total b*llocks, and if it wasn't for the art house with 1 tiny screen all you could watch here would be the obvious big budget stuff* … long live South Hill Park and other similar places, I just wish their patrons would button it sometimes.(* which is good too sometimes, obviously, and I am not a snob who thinks anyone who likes Transformers 2 is scum (although Transformers 2 was total rubbish, and they probably are a bit thick** (**not really)))

  9. In defence of the teenagers I saw Dr. Parnassus last night at an Odeon. The experience was generally okay except for the group of middle-aged women behind us who had to ask each other what was going on and who everyone was every five minutes. Although comparatively this was much less annoying than the army of teenagers shouting to each other across opposite ends of the cinema in Zombieland last week.

  10. Good job you're not sitting in for Mark Kermode this week – you could have found yourself sitting in a cinema in Hull tomorrow discussing films. I've only been here 15 years so I haven't been yet, but I'm guessing the odd sweet wrapper gets rustled there.

  11. It appears that tickets aren't in fact capped at a tenner: "Up 3D" is £12 according to the website. Presumably this is the 3D tax Kermode is always banging on about.

  12. I was attempting to utilise hyperbole to highlight the fact that your comments could have been taken as elitist. As you say, yes I'm familiar with your work and in no way really believed that was your intent (in the same way your not pro-half-the-things-Herrin-accuses-you-of). Evidentially, I'm no good at the hyperbolic qand should leave it to the pros.>>Although I suspect you have already made up your mind.Aarghh! I'm confused now. That statement displays a level of self-referential irony that suggests to me that you knew exactly what I was meaning and have turned it around to take the piss.

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